There’s a fascinating paradox happening in commerce right now: While consumers are shopping online more frequently than ever before, the majority still prefers to shop in store for most products. This apparent dichotomy can make it tough for retailers to know where to focus.
With nearly a third of consumers now shopping online at least once per week, an increase of 41 percent since 2014, there’s no doubt that e-commerce has become a ubiquitous experience. Yet the new Walker Sands Future of Retail 2016 study finds that there are only two product categories – books and electronics – where more than half of consumers actually prefer to shop online. So what gives? Are consumers confused?
In reality, these findings aren’t all that opposed to each other. Instead, they reflect consumers’ mutual desire for the convenience of the web and the intimacy of the in-store experience. While online shopping has come a long way in terms of consumer trust and ease of use, it still has a ways to go to replicate the touch and feel of the in-store experience.
At the same time, online shopping offers a personalized experience that retailers haven’t yet been able to provide in store. So the two trends outlined in the report present a huge opportunity for retailers that can nail a hybrid strategy that combines the best of both worlds through technology.
Just take a look at in-store beacons. According to Juniper Research, digital coupons delivered through location-based technology have far higher redemption rates than normal promos. And despite a seemingly slow start as retailers have tested the technology in beta, beacons are poised to take off. Juniper predicts that 1.6 billion coupons will be delivered annually to consumers via beacon technology by 2020, up from only 11 million this year.
That forecast lines up well with the Future of Retail study, which shows that 70 percent of consumers would be willing to opt into using in-store beacons if retailers offered them the right incentives. So while only 6 percent of consumers have used beacons to date, the right combination of coupons and loyalty rewards will drive wider adoption.
Admittedly, beacons have received a ton of hype over the past few years without a lot of success so far. The study reveals that the majority of consumers are worried about privacy, message overload and security, and a third of shoppers cite the hassle of downloading a retailer’s app as a major roadblock. But as major retailers like Macy’s, Target and Lord & Taylor come out of beta, they’ll entice consumers to get over their reservations with targeted ads and tailored product information that offers a more personalized experience.
That’s where beacons hold the most potential for bringing together best of e-commerce and brick-and-mortar shopping. By combining historical transaction data from all channels, location information, and the hands-on brand experience that most shoppers want, retailers can get consumers back into stores while still catering to their desire for convenience and personalization.
There’s still a long way to go – more than 60 percent of consumers currently aren’t receptive to push notifications from retailers or in-store mobile tracking. That won’t last for long, though, as more shoppers benefit from a digital experience while browsing the aisles at their favorite store.
For the full findings, and other areas of focus for retailers in the year to come, download the full Walker Sands Future of Retail report at www.walkersands.com/futureofretail.